Australia’s largest heavy-duty truck assembly plant produces prime movers for two leading brands – Volvo and Mack – with assistance from a 50-strong fleet of Linde material handling equipment.
As the manufacturer of leading brands Volvo and Mack, the Volvo truck production facility at Wacol, Queensland is a busy, fully utilised 7.4 hectare site where 450 employees combine the resources of production halls, warehouses and hardstand areas to achieve an annual maximum capacity of up to 3000 vehicles.
It’s an enterprise with diverse material handling equipment needs which were previously sourced from two suppliers. Now Linde meets all those needs alone and with a smaller fleet than its predecessor.
Volvo undertook a forensic examination of the market over several months before selecting Linde Material Handling to supply its new fleet.
“Our selection process examined everything from the machines offered by the companies we asked to tender, to the credentials of those companies,” Andrew Ford, Material Handling Leader at Volvo Commercial Vehicles Australia said.
“We looked at machine design for function and operator considerations, examined service support capabilities and even conducted site visits and informal discussion with management teams and operators from other material handling equipment users.”
As the list of potential suppliers was narrowed down, Linde emerged as the likely winner, scoring almost a clean sweep as best in the categories which were crucial to Volvo. But there was one more consideration to be made.
“We needed a business partner, not just a vendor who would put machines in here and disappear until we complained that something wasn’t working,” Andrew Ford said.
“We wanted a company that would be here when we needed it and which would support us with outstanding after sales service.
Linde’s response was to guarantee support for the carefully chosen fleet it recommended for the Wacol plant, with an on-site technician for day-to-day issues and to add further value to the partnership by implementing its FleetFOCUS fleet management system configured to Volvo’s needs.
The new fleet configuration Linde recommended includes R16HD sit-down reach trucks for indoor use, R20G sit-down reach trucks for indoor/outdoor use, V12 man-up high level order pickers, H25D and H40D diesel forklifts for outdoor loading/unloading of trucks and shipping containers, P60 tow units, P250 heavy-duty electric tow units, E20P electric 3-wheeled counterbalance forklifts, EWX30 walkie reach stackers and L10 walk behind pallet stackers.
“We wanted robust machinery which goes the distance,” Andrew Ford said. “Operation on our hardstand surfaces demanded certain engineering be built into the equipment. The Linde R20G sit-down battery electric reach trucks suit our environment to a T for picking cased stock outdoors and moving it indoors to the warehouse.
“Some of our assembly procedures use Linde EWX30 walkie reach stackers and Linde L10 walk behind pallet trucks and our Linde P60 tow vehicles take kitted product from the warehouse to manufacturing.
“They tow purpose built trolleys which are engineered to carry specific components to individual production stations. Because our trucks are built to customer order there is a lot of variation, so we pick 90 per cent of product at part number level for each production station.”
The P60s share towing duties on site with a pair of Linde P250s which Andrew Ford describes as almost an electric ute. “One has been put into service as a tow mobile,” he said. “It has the capacity to tow our finished trucks if, for whatever reason they need to be towed.
“The other is used by our maintenance department to tow a train of bins for collecting waste product from the various departments for recycling.”
Ergonomics and operator comfort were very important factors in choosing the equipment required for working on Volvo’s handstand areas.
“We discovered the Linde R20G has a suspension system which makes it ideal for our purposes, not just for safely carrying loads over those types of surfaces, but also for the comfort of our operators,” Andrew Ford said.
“The Linde R20Gs are a blessing for us. They fill a missing link from the previous supplier so far as battery electrics are concerned. The suspension of the machine and its rugged and durable design really suit that type of environment, especially with the larger wheels and tyres which Linde recommended.
With a lean production system in place at the Wacol plant, there’s little toleration of unplanned downtime and a pressing need for careful management of reliable, capable equipment.
Volvo had experimented with a fleet management system provided by a previous supplier at WACOL, but success was thwarted by its unsuitability and lack of training and support.
“Linde’s FleetFOCUS system is flexible, has powerful reporting functions, and excellent back-up support,” Andrew said. “It’s early days, but so far, FleetFOCUS has been very successful.
“We are tailoring its reports to suit our exact requirements and that will save time and give much better control and info about fleet utilisation.
“The equipment/operator use and impact reporting aspects are fantastic. Every organisation has situations where accidents are not always reported, but from the day we turned on FleetFOCUS the operators are reporting any incident. In situations where the impact would generate an email report I’m hearing from the operator even before the email arrives, so that’s very positive.
“We really know what’s going on in the fleet now. Previously we didn’t fully understand what we were getting out of the equipment in terms of individual trucks’ traction hours or lift hours, but now we are across all of that. It’s a big bonus for us.
“At present we’ve managed to slightly reduce our fleet size from what it was under the previous supplier where we had built in some additional downtime for aging equipment and reduced reliability.
“We have an onsite Linde technician available to us at all times. He’s very skilled and has established an excellent rapport with our own equipment service department.
“Feedback from the operators on all the equipment has been really good and now everybody is on board the new Linde equipment is proving itself. I haven’t heard any negative issues at all.
“The changeover to the new fleet went very smoothly and everything I needed is now on site. In fact because of the current build rate here I’ve had to supplement the fleet with some short term rental equipment which Linde has also provided.”
"The Linde R20Gs are a blessing for us. They fill a missing link from the previous supplier so far as battery electrics are concerned. The suspension of the machine and its rugged and durable design really suit that type of environment."
Material Handling Leader, Volvo Commercial Vehicles Australia